Archives For January 2006

On Tap: New York Knicks

Gatinho —  January 31, 2006

Record: 14-29

Offense: 97
Defense: 101.3

Last 10 games: 2-8

What Vegas Says: Lakers -5.5

Gatinho the Scout: Seeing that the Knicks were playing the Hawks yesterday, I tuned in via “League Pass” to get a glimpse figuring that I would see the better side of this inconsistent Knick team against a club that was equally as inconsistent. The Hawks went on a 28-2 run in a third quarter low-lighted by 11 Knick turnovers. They accumulated 23 in the game and are averaging 17 per on the year. They lacked any offensive flow or shooting rythm. (Sound familiar?)

Update: But are they quitters?

Silver linings: David Lee has been joined by Jackie Butler (career high 15 points in the Hawks loss) to provide some scoring punch and energy off the bench recently for these Knicks. Channing Frye is leading rookies in 5 separate categories although the award will most likely go to the Hornet’s Chris Paul .

Did you see Scanners?: Last night Larry Brown and his coaching staff all looked as if they were candidates to have their domes explode during that miserable stretch of the third quarter. There is no way these Knicks come with the same effort against the Lakers in the Mecca, and the Lakers need to keep the hard lessons learned from the Portland and Sacramento losses in mind.

The Mecca: “It doesn’t matter if it’s Michael Jordan, or Muhammad Ali, or Sinatra, or the pope,” said George Kalinsky, the Garden’s official photographer for 38 years. “They know the stage is brighter here than anyplace else.” The Knicks faithful may be buzzing about the possibility of seeing a Kobe score-fest, but he must resist going down that road unless absolutely necessary.

Ascending: This should be a night where the Lakers can return to the form they flirted with on the 5-1 trip in the earlier part of the season. Lamar should be able to get his confidence up and bounce back from the past turnover ridden games against Detroit and Golden State. As the “initiator” of the offense he should be given more leeway in regards to his turnover total, but he must not be predictable. Teams are guessing pass and therefore are staying at home defensively setting Lamar up for the inevitable offensive fouls. The rest of the crew should be looking to return a little rhythm to their shooting.

Pony Boy: With 12 points and 9 rebounds with a 1.4 to.6 assist to turnover ratio over the last 5 games, Chris Mihm has seemingly become one of the only Lakers not named Kobe that we may begin to consider consistent. A solid 16 points and 14 rebounds against the Detroit juggernaut aided Kobe in keeping that game respectable. The rest of the guys outside of those two were 16-41.

6th Ave and W. 4th St.: Smush (and Lamar) returns home. “The Cage” has been chronicled here and in several other stories and is widely known for its out-of-bounds lines being marked not by paint but by a chain link fence.

Smush for three:The Lakers have nominated Smush to participate in the three-point shoot-out over the All-Star break.

Blog on: Check out the two excellent Knick blogs listed to the right for more insight.

-Gatinho

On Tap: Detroit Pistons

Gatinho —  January 29, 2006

Record: 36-5 (Are you kidding me?)

Nov: 11-2
Dec: 13-2
Jan: 12-1

Offense: 99.8
Defense: 90.5

Last 10 games: 10-0

When lightning strikes: Two of their last three losses are to Utah, a long defensive team. If the Lakers have a chance to stay with the Pistons today it will be accomplished on the boards. Good forward play will be integral. Okur and Kirilenko killed them. However, Utah got the benefit of catching the Pistons on the second night of a back to back for both games. The Lakers won’t have that luxury.

When you think Pistons, you think…Offense?: The Pistons are 9th in the league in scoring, up from 24th last season. They are taking higher percentage shots and sharing the ball without turning it over. Billups and Hamilton are masters of the mid range game. Take notes Smush.

Finding a happy place: Kobe has averaged 20.3 points in 20 games against the Pistons, but has reached the 30-point mark just three times. How long will he wait before he tries to take the team on his shoulders? My guess is sooner than later. Can he find a happy place that gives him enough shots while distributing at the opportune moments?

The Sage sez: “Kobe has to conform to the system and program for this to work right and the players have to step up and also score and do the right things for us to fulfill our goals to have a complete team.”

The optimist’s creed:Promise yourself- To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.” Cause here comes trouble.

Turiaf stays: Ronny will go with the Lakers on the 7 game road trip due to the fact that the NBDL affiliate, the Fort Worth Flyers, will only play 3 games over the next 15 days. Now if he just solves his “work-visa issues

Basking in the Glow…

Charley Rosen on 81: ” It should also be noted that even though Kobe’s adherence to the triangle is a “sometimes thing,” the hard-to-plot player movements inherent in the offense made it difficult for Toronto to double-team Kobe (simply because designating Smush Parker’s defender, say, to be the two-timer, won’t work if Parker is unexpectedly three passes away on any given set — and so on.)… Let’s see how many points he scores against the Pistons on Sunday.”

An Inspired Heisler: Lawrence of Arabia, Lot’s wife, Mt. Olympus. Obviously someone is still giddy over the 81 point game a week after the fact. Warm yourself in the glow. He also runs some nice smack at the folks who were less than gracious in their reaction to Kobe’s historical night.

Chris McCosky, Detroit News: “We probably can stop the debate on the leading candidate for most valuable player…. Chauncey Billups may be driving the best team in basketball, but the best player in basketball is undeniably Kobe Bryant.”

Help in the Paint: Nikolay Valuev, 7 foot, 323 pound Russian Heavyweight Champ. Imagine getting around that pick.

-Gatinho

Aloha

Kurt —  January 28, 2006

I really should be more frustrated with that narrow win over Golden State, but I’m not for two reasons: 1) it’s still a win; 2) I leave on vacation for a week Saturday, so it’s hard to be pissed about anything.

The Lakers survived a bad shooting night (45.7% eFG%) and some frustrating defensive lapses (Smush, I’m looking at you) to get the win. They did hold Golden State to 43.8% shooting, but if they had Richardson available the Lakers would never have won that game.

Now the Lakers head out on a tough road trip out East, starting with a thrashing at the hands of 8 Mile (well, it will be a thrashing if they Lakers play like they did against Golden State). That will be followed by NYC (and be sure to check out Knickerblogger), a revamped Indiana squad and some other interesting games, finishing with a couple of games in Texas. My initial thoughts are 4-3 on the seven-game trip would be good, 3-4 not the end of the world, but less than that would be frustrating.

But while the Lakers head east, I’m going west (it’s weird, the Lakers/Knicks game will start at 1:30 in the afternoon where I’ll be). Me leaving could be good for the Lakers — last time I left town, just for a weekend, Kobe went for 81. What happens when I’m gone for a week?

Gatinho will step in with some interesting posts and thoughts in my absence, keeping the conversation going here. Aloha.

On Tap: The Golden State Warriors

Kurt —  January 27, 2006

Record: 19-22 (Pythagorean 18-23), 11th seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 2-8
Laker record against Warriors: 1-0
Offensive Rating: 106.9 (14th in league)
Defensive Rating: 108.3 (20th in league)

This is going to be short, I think I’ve spent plenty of time breaking down the Lakers this week.

Last time these two hooked up the Lakers got a “decent” night out of Kobe (38 points, just 13 of 28 from the field but 11 of 11 from the line, a true shooting percentage of 57.9%) but, more importantly, this was one of the balanced games for the Lakers offense — Smush had 24, Kwame 18 and Mihm 12.

They’ll need the balance again, I’m sure the Warriors have talked about not letting Kobe beat them, since the world will be watching. Other guys should get their chances and need to hit their shots. The Warriors are not that strong up front, this should be a good night for the Laker big men.

Also, that last game the Warriors shot a lot of threes, something else that plays to the Lakers strength — they are the second best team in the NBA at defending the three. The other thing the Lakers need to do: Not get into a track meet. The Warriors want the pace up, the Lakers don’t.

Finally, let’s see if Monty, the Warriors coach, can figure out that his regular starting five is struggling, but start Fisher instead of Dunleavy and they get a lot better. If you want more Warrior info, check out The City (I thought SF was “The City” and Golden State played across the bay?).

This is a team the Lakers could be battling for one of those final playoff spots in the West, the kind of game they need to win.

We’ll go through the players in an order selected by me, with little rhyme or reason. Because I can. After the name of the player you will see his PER and his +/- (per 48 minutes), not the end-all-be-all of statistics but they start to paint a picture of contributions. By the way, there is no way this (or the previous review) could have been done without the Knickerblogger Stats Page or 82games.com, those guys are heroes of mine.

Kobe Bryant (29.1[highest PER in the NBA], +10.1): Over at the APBR Metrics board, the best Laker stats guy walking the planet, Bob Chaikin, put up some interesting numbers about Kobe:

bryant scored 30.6 pts/g over his first 19 games this season, but over his past 20 games he’s averaged 41.0 pts/g, during which he’s shot a very high Scoring FG% (combining 2pters, 3pters, and FTs) of 58.9% – 51% on 2s, 38% on 3s, and 85% on FTs, on 35 scoring opportunities per game (FGA + FTA/2), with just 3.1 turnovers/game. that’s efficient scoring…

Beyond the numbers, Kobe has this season, more than anyone I can remember since Jordan, been able to impose his will on the other team. More than just winning, he is really trying to demoralize opponents and guys trying to guard him. The important part is he is being consistent, bringing that energy every night.

Maybe better than any other player, Kobe has the skills and basketball IQ to exploit the current NBA hand-checking enforcement. He is getting to the line or 10.6 times per 40 minutes, plus taking 27.4 field goal attempts in that same time. He is also averaging 4.2 assists per 40 minutes (only Walton and Odom average more on the Lakers).

Kobe is making his living on the outside — 79% of his shots are jump shots, up from 71% last season and 66% the season before that. The reason appears to be that defenses are doubling him more quickly (sometimes tripling) and taking away the drive, so Kobe is rising above for the jumper. On those jumpers, he is shooting 46.4% (eFG%), a pretty good number, and he has become one of the best midrange shooters in the league.

Defensively, he has primarily covered opposing two guards and has kept them to a PER of 13.7, showing his defense has been good.

Lamar Odom (17.3, +4.0): Phil Jackson has asked a lot of Lamar Odom, but he is not getting the answer he wants every night.

Odom has good numbers overall, yet he gets those with combinations of good nights and some clunkers. It’s not just the scoring — there have been nights when he hasn’t scored 10 points but has been effective. However, there are nights when his leadership, as the guy with the ball in his hands coming up the court, has been both needed and missing.

When you look for the defining reason for the bad nights there seems to be no pattern (for example, his numbers in wins and losses are very similar). For the record, Odom is shooting 49.4% (eFG%) and is averaging 14.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per 40 minutes. He is grabbing 14% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor (trailing only Chris Mihm among the Lakers).

Odom is the one Laker on the roster other than #8 that has the skills to be a threat every night. For the Lakers to really grow as a team, he has to deliver night in and night out.

Smush Parker (13.4, +3.5): Smush has turned out to be quite a find, and credit needs to go to Mitch Kupchak for giving him the chance.

Smush is shooting 54% (eFG%) plus is leading the team with 2 steals per 40 minutes. He’s not just a jump shooter — 34% of his shots are coming in close to the basket, through penetration or moving without the ball and getting lay-ups. He’s shooting 38.7% from three-point range. His defense is an improvement over Chucky Atkins, in particular because Smush creates turnovers, but Smush is not a great defender — opposing point guards are shooting 50.6% (eFG%) when he is on the floor and have a PER of 20.1.

I love the energy Smush brings, but let me honest about his skill level — for a team that will go deep into the playoffs, Smush is the kind of player you want coming off the bench.

Chris Mihm (15.1, +6.3): No one statistic tells everything about a player, but I think Mihm’s +/- tells a lot — his is second best on the team behind Kobe. I think that’s because he is the second most consistent player on the Lakers. That is, when his minutes aren’t limited by foul trouble.

Admittedly, +/- tells you as much about the backup as the player you’re looking at, but the bottom line is the Lakers are a lot better when Mihm is on the floor. Under the tutelage of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he has developed a left-handed jump hook and is at his highest true shooting percentage of his career, 56.4%. He is grabbing 14.5% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, the highest percentage of any Laker. He is averaging 2 blocks per 40, best of any Laker playing regularly (Bynum is at 3.1).

The problem continues to be staying on the floor — he is averaging 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes, up from 5.1 last season. Part of it is Mihm is being aggressive going after blocks, but I think there are two parts to his foul trouble: 1) He does pick up some stupid fouls, like reaching in on guards in the backcourt or other off the ball stuff; 2) He really doesn’t get the borderline call from officials. I’m not sure why on the second part, but it’s pretty consistent, he seems to lose all 50/50 calls, and even some 60/40 ones. I have to think that will change as time goes on.

Kwame Brown (8.8. -9.1): Since he’s come back from his injury, I think Kwame has been more focused. He’s grabbed 13.8% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, and he is holding opposing centers to a PER of 12.8 — he’s played good D against the big men man-to-man. That said, his defensive rotations are often late and he can be an offensive black hole.

I’ve not fully made up my mind about him, but this is what I think right now — Kwame would make a decent backup center in the NBA. If he came off the bench, if he made $3 million per year, he’d be just another guy. Which is what he is. But because he is the number one overall pick, because he is a physical specimen, we expect more. Well, others do, I have stopped. He’s just another guy, and the Lakers tend to do better when he is on the bench.

Andrew Bynum (5.8. -9.8): All the talk is still the three minutes against Shaq a few weeks ago. It should be. And those few minutes showed where Bynum is right now. Shaq dunked over him first, because Shaq is much stronger and knew how to get position. Granted, Shaq is stronger than just about every center in the league, but Bynum needs both some time in the weight room and time for his body to grow — not to mention some on-court experience — to be consistent at the NBA level.

What’s got to make Laker fans happy was the moxie Bynum showed. After Shaq dunked on him, Bynum came down to the other end and asked for the ball. His move was right out of the “drop step for dummies” manual, but if you had seen him in the Summer Pro League in Long Beach you would know just how big a step forward that was for him. By all accounts, Bynum has a great work ethic. His defense and rebounding are already good, and next year he should get the chance to display those skills more. If he continues to improve like he has, he can be a very good center in this league. He needs to keep working.

Devean George (11.3, +4.0): George has been a solid player off the bench, which frankly is about what we should expect out of him. I think his positive number (same as with Walton’s) is that he fits well with what the triangle wants to do on offense, and he knows how to work inside it. That said, I wish he would attempt fewer threes, he is shooting just 28.2% from beyond the arc.

Another key is George is playing good defense off the bench, as reflected in his opponent PER of 13.3 (remember, the league average is 15).

Luke Walton (10.4. +0.4): When Luke Walton is on the floor, the Laker offense runs much more smoothly. His passing skills reward guys who work without the ball, so you see guys work without the ball.

The problem is he is shooting the ball poorly — just 37.1% (eFG%), well below his career average of 46.1%. Specifically, he is shooting just 36.1% on jump shots, and that accounts for 85% of his chances. He is shooting 25% from three-point range. He’s only shooting 45% in close. He needs to develop a consistent outside shot or teams will continue to back off him when he has the ball and dare him to shoot. His defense also continues to be average, at best.

Brian Cook (15.1, +0.1): He can shoot the ball, shooting 53.5% from the field (second best on the Lakers), 43.8% from beyond the arc (best on the team). I love when he and Kobe play the pick-and-pop, it can be almost impossible to defend.

He seems more comfortable away from the basket, and that has affected his rebounding — he grabs 9.8% of the available rebounds when on the floor, a low percentage for someone who plays the four. His defense against opposing fours also is not that great — opponent fours have a PER of 17 against him — and that may be a reason he seems to get fewer minutes from Phil depending on matchups. He brings a lot to the floor that Kwame doesn’t (like an offensive game), but Kwame is better on defense, especially in the post area.

Sasha Vujacic (8.4, +0.2): Credit Sasha for becoming a solid defensive player — it was a weakness when he entered the league and things didn’t look much better at the Summer Pro League. But he is getting Phil’s trust because he is playing good defense off the bench, opposing point guards have a PER of just 13.3 against him.

He is shooting 35.5% from beyond the arc but has an eFG% of just 44.3% — he is the rare player that is shooting better on jump shots (45.6%) than inside on lay-ups and other shots close to the basket (36.8%).

He’s developing into a solid off-the-bench player, he just needs to be more consistent with his shot. And, I guess, stay away from the basket.

Von Wafer (1.4, -18.3): Very athletic, but he needs to spend time in the D League. He needs to play to get some polish and experience, and that’s not going to happen with the Lakers right now.